Forming an Examination Board can involve either informal or quite formal processes, depending on the nature and needs of a planned Ranking Examination.
An Examination Board is initially formed via selection of a practitioner as the Examination Board Head. The Examination Board Head is the individual who will manage and coordinate the examination. Many different Examination Board Heads may operate at any one time, each managing a different planned Ranking Examination.
The Examination Board Head is an instructor who outranks all individuals who will be testing for rank advancement. The Examination Board Head is frequently the Head Instructor of a Dojo but could be any other instructor who has appropriate experience and who outranks all Ranking Examination candidates.
Examination Board Members
Once nominated (by whatever process seems appropriate for the planned examination) the Examination Board Head will select additional members of the Examination Board. These members may include the following participants:
- The instructor for each student who will undergo testing
- Other senior instructors
- Head Instructors from other Dojo
- One or more senior members from the Sei Tensoku Ryu (relevant when candidates are testing for Shodan or higher rankings)
The instructors for ranking candidates are always included in the Examination Board and should make every effort to attend the examination. The comments from a student’s instructor can benefit the student during examination results deliberations. It is also extremely beneficial that instructors be able to communicate examination deliberation suggestions and comments directly to students during the next meeting or lesson with the student. This is most useful if these comments reinforce points the instructor has already suggested to the student.
Other senior instructors in the Dojo or local region can also provide benefit to the examination proceedings. These board members are especially useful when an examination involves candidates for intermediate and senior ranks. These senior board members are also extremely beneficial when a ranking candidate is an instructor. These senior board members have a better appreciation for the rigors and demands of more advanced ranks and will be able to provide meaningful and useful improvement suggestions for ranking candidates.
When an examination involves candidates from multiple Dojo (as might be the case with a regional examination) then it is only reasonable and proper to ensure the Examination Board includes the Head Instructor for each Dojo that has candidates participating in the examination. Having another Head Instructor attend a ranking examination, even if candidates from only a single Dojo are participating, can offer benefits to both candidates and the Examination Board. This is especially true when candidates are testing for intermediate or advanced ranks. This helps ensure that two Dojo work together to promote candidates and conform to Tensoku Ryu standards and practices. This helps candidates feel they have achieved broader acceptance of their rank and are receiving additional recognition from the larger Tensoku Ryu community.
The Sei Tensoku Ryu need not participate in an Examination Board unless one or more candidates are testing for Shodan. In this latter case attendance of a Sei Tensoku Ryu senior member remains a requirement. The Sei Tensoku Ryu members of the Examination Board will normally function as board members and not as Examination Board Head, unless one or more ranking candidates are testing for Godan or higher ranking levels. When testing for these higher ranks a Sei Tensoku Ryu senior member will function as Examination Board Head.
Nevertheless, an Examination Board may occasionally benefit from inclusion of a Sei Tensoku Ryu senior member even when testing junior candidates. In such cases the Sei Tensoku Ryu board members will not comment on whether candidates have or should pass a ranking examination. These members will, however, offer insights, suggestions, and guidance regarding testing practices, candidate preparedness, and examination administration. The goal of such discussions is to ensure overall consistency in curriculum adherence, examination administration and to provide positive support and assistance to those administering Ranking Examinations. Sei Tensoku Ryu senior members take care to never provide demeaning, insulting, derogatory, or hostile comments. Even in instances that warrant some changes the Sei Tensoku Ryu will make every attempt to make this a positive learning event for everyone involved.
An Examination Board may include one or more observers. Observers witness every function of an Examination Board but they do not provide comments about ranking candidates during deliberations and have no say regarding whether individual candidates have passed an examination. Observers may include instructor candidates, visiting instructors from other martial arts systems, journalists (not likely, but possible), public officials, and martial arts dignitaries. Observers may never include family members, friends, or close associates of a ranking candidate. The Examination Board Head should caution observers that they should not disclose any comments about specific candidates made during deliberations, though general characterizations of the proceedings are permissible. Observers should also understand that they are to participate in Examination Board activities in a passive and not interactive manner.
Examination Board Selection Formality
Typical Examination Boards do not require formal organization. Most Examination Boards deal with junior students and do not usually involve Examination Board members pulled from outside of the Dojo. In these Examination Boards the Head Instructor often functions as the Examination Board Head and simply selects Examination Board members from among the instructional staff. The Head Instructor may occasionally, at his or her discretion, invite observers, other Dojo members, or senior Sei Tensoku Ryu members to participate in an Examination Board. The Examination Board Head usually coordinates most selections quite informally and need not make these selections more complex than necessary. Examination Boards can often be formed on short notice and with little advanced planning. Naturally, board formation should not require massive last-minute scheduling interruptions for selected Examination Board members.
When an examination will involve an external location, a regional examination, senior ranking candidates, or complex logistics then Examination Board member select requires increased formality and preparation. The Examination Board Head must allow sufficient lead time to ensure board member candidates can confirm attendance and enable selection of alternate member candidates in the event one or more candidate board members are unable to take part. Typically the Examination Board Head will make requests for board member participation via email or a commonly accepted scheduling application. Requests should include a reasonable respond-by date. The Examination Board Head may use periodic missives to request a response from potential members. The Examination Board Head should assume that anyone not confirming by the Respond-by date will not attend.
These Examination Board membership requests should include the following details:
- The name of the Examination Board Head
- Contact information for the Examination Board Head, (phone, email, text information, etc.)
- The level of the examination (junior, intermediate, senior, Godan or above, or some mixture of these levels)
- Expected number of ranking candidates
- Any affiliated Dojo (perhaps more than one) or Tensoku Ryu Region
- The date and time of the planned examination
- The street address of the examination venue
- The respond-by date
- Logistical Information (optional)
The logistical information is usually relevant when some form of travel is likely. This information might include driving directions, parking information, lodging possibilities, dining options, public transportation options or instructions, or any other details that will make it easier for a potential board member to attend the examination event.
Examination Board Communication
Prior to the testing event the Examination Board Head should provide any relevant instructions or guidance to Examination Board members. These communications may include:
- Any scheduling updates or changes of venue
- Any special circumstances or considerations
- A request to arrive at the venue early for a pre-examination meeting immediately prior to the examination
- Any advanced notification for selection of the Examination Lead. This is not necessary, but it can help a more junior individual better prepare for this role.
- Any changes to the list of those participating in the examination
- Suggestions or advice for board members regarding process, the venue, or logistical considerations.